Earlier this year, Oklahoma passed House Bill 2632, which expands the state’s “stand your ground” law to include places of worship. The law goes into effect November 1, 2018, and will likely encourage more churches to tell their members they are welcome to bring their guns to church.
“A lot of churches that I’m talking with are removing those ‘no weapons’ signs. They’re much more open to having people there that have a heart to protect,” Tara Koetter, owner of Sheepdog Security, told reporters.
How Will HB 2632 Affect Guns in Church?
HB 2632 essentially protects from prosecution anyone who uses “defensive force” to stop an intruder—including anyone using “defensive force” inside a church building. While the bill does not overstep the rights of the church, by declaring, for instance, that anyone can bring a firearm into any church, it does allow the churches to “establish policies regarding the possession of weapons on property.” The bill states “citizens of the State of Oklahoma have a right to expect absolute safety within their own homes, places of business or places of worship.”
The bill was the brainchild of Representative Greg Babinec (R-Cushing) who was concerned about churches being “sued out of existence” should an incident involving a firearm at a house of worship result in death, injury, or trauma. Representative John Bennett (R-Sallisaw), defended the bill during its approval process. “It clearly states in the Bible to defend ourselves… Jesus was not a pacifist,” Bennett argued.
The bill sailed through the Oklahoma senate and house of representatives with a 62 yea to 21 nay vote. It was signed into law on May 7, 2018, and goes into effect Thursday, November 1.
According to Koetter, more churches are opting to allow parishioners to bring their firearms into worship services. And now, with HB 2632 going into effect, there is likely a little less worry on the part of church leadership concerning lawsuits involving church members and the use of a firearm while on church property. Still, Koetter prefers churches go a step further beyond allowing parishioners to carry inside the church to having a trained safety team.
The bill goes into effect just days after an armed intruder entered a synagogue in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and killed 11 people.